The Netherlands. The sugar industry and its scripophily

Von Michael Fraikin


3. April 2021


10. Mai 2021

As the other articles in the series this is meant to provide an overview of the evolution of the sugar industry in the region and of the topic from a scripophily perspective.

The below will focus on the Netherlands itself and will briefly pass Suriname whereas the highly important industry on Java is dealt with in a separate article found here. The information on the Dutch sugar industry has largely been sourced from annual yearbooks of the German sugar industry as well as Dr. Hermann Paasche's book on the sugar industry in 1891 (Zuckerindustrie und Zuckerhandel der Welt) and last but not least a wikipedia list of Dutch sugar factories. An additional source of information especially on the later evolution has been the website of the Royal Cosun Beet Company.

Originally the focus of the sugar industry in the Dutch mainland was the refining of imported colonial raw sugar from cane. Accordingly a relatively large number of artisanal undertakings sprang up in the country. This abundance of raw sugar will have acted as a considerable impediment to a local beet sugar industry. I have not come across traces of local beet sugar enterprises during the Napoleonic era or the second sugar boom in the 1830s (3 likely short lived minor undertakings are mentioned on wikipedia). By 1865 there were 9 local factories in operation (compared to 100 in Belgium or nearly 400 in France). Only 8 years later there were 31 and from then on this number stayed fairly constant to begin to decline from the 1900s onwards. There was however a considerable turnover in factories as new one were built and old or unsuccessful factories decomissioned. 7 factories out of 38 were either opened or closed between 1891 and 1938 and all active throughout would have been modernized to a large degree. From the late 19th century factories increasingly moved from only producing raw sugar (and requiring a refinery) to producing white sugar ready for consumption. The industry was particularly prevalent in North Brabant, Groningen and South Holland amongst the Dutch provinces (and North Holland ie Amsterdam for refineries).

Typical examples of Dutch sugar pieces. From a 1771 loan to planters in Essequibo to the 1990s:


Apart from factories there naturally were refineries initially only of cane sugar but then also of raw beet sugar. As increasingly England became the dominant refiner of colonial raw sugar the importance of this declined in the Netherlands but refineries remained active to convert raw beet sugar until this was made redundant by the inclusion of refining in the processes of the sugar factories. In 1891 there were 5 refineries (all in Amsterdam or Rotterdam) and 7 rock candy factories (none incorporated). The last refinery Wester Suikerraffineraderij - by then a part of CSM - closed in 1964.

The Dutch factories intially were often started by sole proprietors and later incorporated as is typical elsewhere. Somewhat unusual is the high proportion of cooperative societies owning factories. Whereas in Germany the dominant model was the factory owned by farmers tied to their factory by the statutes of the companies the company in the Netherlands this was fairly evenly spread between the factories owned by private capital and the factories owned by cooperative societies. The rules of the cooperative societies probably usually required beet growing and delivery. 

The successive crises of the industry and the constant need for investment caused increasing concentration and a trend to larger limited companies and cooperative societies. In 1919 the Centrale Suiker Maatschappij (CSM) was founded that amalgamated most factories owned by private capital at the time and the same began on the cooperative side of the industry in 1947 with the formation of the Vereinigde Coöperative Beetwortelsuikerfabrieken (VCS) and was completed when the remaining cooperatively owned factories joined in 1966. The VCS ended up as the sole force in the Dutch industry renamed first Suiker Unie and then in 1996 Cosun acquiring the sugar business of CSM in 2007 and Danisco's factory in Anklam, Germany in 2009.

Today only 2 sugar and 2 specialty factories remain operating in the Netherlands (Dinteloord (b 1909), Vierverlaaten (b 1894), Puttershoek (b 1913) and Roosendaal (b 1864) respectively).

Of the Dutch colonies Java was the key asset from a sugar perspective and at the end of the 19th century the largest sugar producer from cane in the world - easily dwarfing the domestic industry. Given that a majority of the companies active on Java were actually based in the Netherlands and owned by Dutch capital the majority of the industry from that perspective was actually oriented overseas. Java aside the remainder of the overseas interests lay in Suriname which however was of increasingly marginal importance even by the end of the 19th century. I have come across only few Dutch corporations active in the field of sugar outside the Netherlands or the Dutch colonies (the plantation banks would also be such examples - eg Handelsvereniging Amsterdam or Internatio). The De Bahia Suikerfabrieken active in Brazil is a rare example.

In terms of scripophily we can find most types of securities known to Dutch enterprises also issued by the domestic sugar companies. Compared to typical Cuban, Czech or early German pieces they are quite sober - with the borders usually the only decorative element. It is not precisely known how many different securities from how many companies have survived or how many existed to start with. My collection currently has over 70 securities from 17 different companies. There were 42 sugar factories in total from 1858 - with most of them having at least one incorporation. My oldest piece for a beet sugar factory was issued by the Gooische Beetwortelsuiker-Fabriek in 1872. With the formation of CSM in 1919 and in 1947 first VCS and then Suiker Unie on the cooperative side the number of entities fell quickly. On top of that there was a number of mostly cane refiners only few (my earliest example is the Nederlandsche Suikerraffinaderij of 1849) of which would have issued securities. There is another aspect about the Dutch certificates that stands out: They often provide a great deal of interesting corporate information. Older Dutch certificates usually give the date of incorporation, the dates of important changes and frequently state the issued capital by instrument.

An unusual feature of the Dutch market is the high proportion of securities produced by Amsterdam firm J.H. de Bussy (founded originally as a bookshop in 1868) after an acquisition in 1968 known as de Bussy Ellerman Harms. In 2004 remaining activities were sold. This firm not only designed and printed securities but also was a publisher of for example the Jaarboek voor Suikerfabrikanten in Ned.-Indie. Particularly important are the archives of the firm which came to the market and are a critical source for material. Most but not all of the specimen from this source are stamped "SPECIMEN". The earlier specimen usually have punchhole lines which from around 1940 include the letters "dB" and from around 1980 the practice of punchhole lines was stopped but from at least the 1970s onwards specimen are 00000-numbered. The specimen from the de Bussy archives are usually numbered. This scheme was likely started in the first half of the 1920s with the then existing archive not numbered in chronological (or any discernible) order as is the case after 1925. My highest archive number is 17529 for a CSM bond issued in 1995. The below is a typical sampling of their usually monochrome work. The Koloniale Bank piece from 1937 is however an absolute outlier in design terms.

Dutch domestic material is only occasionally available on the market. One important source of material has been the archive of printing company de Bussy in Amsterdam - a full 52 of my Dutch pieces are specimen from this source and only 20 were actually issued. As a collecting field my experience is that the common 20th century pieces will cost around 10 Euros. Most other pieces 20 to 60 Euros with the less common pieces from Suriname trading above that range. Amongst the mid 19th century refinery pieces prices up to around 100 Euros seem normal. A field that attracts higher prices is the 18th century pieces related to the Dutch colonies in Latin America (Suriname and Essequibo). Usually those are effectively securitised loans but occasionally equities.